Talking Tactics

Can Branthwaite maintain early impact as he tackles Arsenal?

14 Sep 2023
Branthwaite Everton Talking Tactics graphic

Adrian Clarke analyses young Everton defender's displays ahead of meeting with Gunners

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Player analysis: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton)

Everton are still awaiting their first Premier League victory of the season but, despite that frustration, head coach Sean Dyche will be encouraged by the influence of one new player in his starting XI.

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England Under-21 central defender Branthwaite has made two successive Premier League starts, impressing with his assurance against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United.

Confident and assertive, despite making only eight league starts for Everton in total, he is sure to be a key figure against Arsenal at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Looking the part

Branthwaite, 21, spent last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven, featuring for the Dutch giants when they beat Arsenal 2-0 in the UEFA Europa League group stage.

He seems to have benefited from that experience and has barely put a foot wrong across his last 180 minutes of top-flight action.

Among the 87 defenders who have started at least two matches so far, Branthwaite is one of only a dozen who are yet to be dribbled past by an opponent.

For a player of his height, at 6ft 5in, his pace and mobility is impressive. He will need those qualities to cope with the threat of Arsenal's livewire forwards Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah.

Dominant in his duels

It will be a concern for Dyche that Everton's rearguard had plenty to work to do against Wolves and Sheff Utd sides who are less dangerous than the leading clubs.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was outstanding in the 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane, and in front of him Branthwaite - who has been partnered by James Tarkowski - is catching the eye too.

He has exuded confidence in his last two appearances, using his frame and physicality well. 

In fact, no Premier League centre-back is averaging more possession regains than Branthwaite, who also ranks joint-second for the most aerial duels won per 90 minutes.

If Arsenal’s frontmen want to engage touch-tight in physical duels, they will not find it easy to brush aside the in-form defender.

Top Premier League centre-backs 23/24*
Possession won/90 Aerial duels won/90
Branthwaite 8.50 Pinnock 4.75
Varane 8.40 Silva 4.50
Ream 7.75 Branthwaite 4.50
Senesi 7.69 Disasi 4.25
Matip 7.54 McKenna 3.85

* Minimum two starts

Branthwaite has a golden opportunity to establish himself in the team, with Conor Coady and Mason Holgate out on loan, while Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey can be inconsistent.

In addition to his defending, he has been an asset on the ball too.

He is happy to accept possession in deep areas and is averaging 44.5 passes per 90, with 52.4 per cent aimed in a forward direction.

This is significantly more than his fellow central defenders Tarkowski (41 per cent) and Keane (35 per cent), who are not as progressive with their own distribution.

Whoever Mikel Arteta opts to start with up front on Merseyside, they can be sure that Branthwaite will not be fazed by the challenge.

His performances are arguably the biggest plus of an otherwise disappointing start to the season for Everton.

Also in this series

Part 1: How West Ham trio have filled Rice void
Part 2: Why Iraola's positive approach will soon pay off for Bournemouth
Part 4: How O'Neil has transformed Wolves' attack

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